Today, July 19th 2014, marks five years to the day since walk 1 of my project to climb all the Wainwrights without using a car. I was going to mark this anniversary with a trip to the Lakes, on what would have been walk 85, but today’s weather is very poor, with thunderstorms. No fun to walk in.

Helvellyn and Thirlmere

Helvellyn and Thirlmere, 2.30pm 2nd March 2010.

Instead, to mark the anniversary I’ve decided to do this blog post which looks back over particular highlights of the last five years: one walk per year. These are not necessarily the ‘best’ walks, in terms of the mountains bagged or the scenery: but they are five points at which the project has really paid off for me, usually because of good weather! Meaningful moments, anyway.

Year 1 highlight: walk 11 (March 2nd 2010).

This was the point that I realised I could keep coming back to the Lake District every three or four weeks, on a pretty much permanent basis, and that as a result I was committed to the project and would have no problem completing it, however long it took. Walk 11, as I said on the walk page, took me into what even Wainwright admits is desolate territory, particularly High Tove and Armboth Fell.

Great Gable and satellites

View from High Tove, taken on walk 11. Great Gable is in the background, Base Brown in front, and Green Gable in the middle. Lingmell to left.

But the weather was just so glorious — I still say this is the best single set of weather conditions I’ve had (though walk 80 came close) — the mountains looked perfect, topped in snow; and the lakes were the most mirror-calm I’ve ever seen. This might also have been the walk on which I realised that the photography could drive me to complete the project as well. Yes, this was a very, very good day.

By the end of year 1 (18th July 2010) I had done 21 walks (including walk 20‘s two-day hike) and bagged 71 of the full list of 330 Wainwrights [though until 2013, I was only counting the main 214].

Gummers How seen across mist

Gummers How, at the south end of Windermere, seen across the misty lowlands on walk 29

Year 2 highlight: Walk 29 (6th January 2011)

Like the previous highlight this walk  showed that the best days out are not necessarily spent on the highest or most popular fells. Lingmoor Fell is well situated on the south side of Great Langdale and it does have Side Pike, its small but very rocky satellite, but there was no particular reason to expect a classic, particularly in January.

But, well, look at the pictures. This was the first walk that I ended up truncating basically because I spent too much time taking photographs. The original plan was to go up Pike O’Blisco as well but in the end just did not leave myself enough time, so that latter fell did not get bagged until nearly two and a half years later. I cared not at all. This picture of Gummers’ How, which is some ten miles away from Loughrigg Fell (on the slopes of which I was stood as I took this shot) remains one of my very favourites, as is the one of Black Fell, below, taken from pretty much the same point. Minor hills in both cases but because of these shots I feel a sense of affection towards them.

Black Fell, from the shoulder of Loughrigg Fell

Black Fell, from the shoulder of Loughrigg Fell. Taken in early January 2011, on walk 29.

And it wasn’t just these two — great views were on offer that day of Wetherlam and the Langdale Pikes among others. A great way to start 2011, too.

By the end of year two, 18th July 2011, I had done 38 walks and bagged 123 of the 330 Wainwrights. So only 52 in the year, down from year 1’s 71, though I did have to have two months off in April and May 2011 due to work commitments.

On the saddle of Blencathra

On the saddle of Blencathra

Year 3 highlight: walk 49 (14th January 2012)

This walk was a highlight for two reasons. Unlike all the other four I’ve chosen, this walk was an ascent of one of the District’s major players, Blencathra. Wainwright clearly adores this fell, giving it more pages and routes of ascent than any other fell in the whole Pictorial Guide, even including Scafell Pike, and names it at the end as one of the ‘Best Half-Dozen’. And it’s very hard to disagree with that assessment. Not only that but Blencathra is very easy to get to by public transport and can be made anything from a very easy to a very difficult climb, according to choice. So in pure mountaineering terms this is always, at least potentially, going to be a highlight of a Wainwright round.

Joe & me on Doddick Fell

Joe & me on Doddick Fell. Picture taken by Clare (obviously).

But again — what a day. In January. Proof (and compare it to the thunderstorms of 19th July 2014) that the British weather will do just what it wants to do, at any time. This one felt even more lucky because we’d booked ourselves into a self-catering cottage at Doddick Farm for the weekend, so were committed to the visit and not just taking advantage of a lucky break in the weather. And there was Blencathra, literally rising right behind the farm.

There were three walks done that weekend, all in stunning conditions, but Blencathra was the best also because Clare and Joe were with me. The summit remains the highest point Joe has reached under his own power. And we’ll even forgive the walk it’s rather tedious second phase, Mungrisdale Common.

Summit of Caudale Moor

The summit of Caudale Moor. Froswick and Ill Bell are prominent in the background.

In year 3 I bagged a total of 59 Wainwrights. By the end of the year — 18th July 2012 — I had done a total of 58 walks and 182 Wainwrights.

Year 4 highlight: Walk 66 (15th September 2012)

That weekend in January 2012 was not typical of the year which followed — and that is putting it mildly. The summer of 2012 saw me heading towards the end of the original project, the climbing of the main 214. It also saw the worst summer weather in living memory. My home town, Hebden Bridge, flooded twice in three weeks. Two booked-in trips, necessary to reach some of the more inaccessible fells in the west of the District, saw the climbs of some major fells spoilt by atrocious weather — the drenching received while going up Great Gable on walk 60b being the nadir.

Golden eagle in Threshthwaite Cove

Resident of Caudale Moor.

Walk 66, put simply, was where the clouds cleared — a gloriously sunny day spent attaining the highest Wainwright summit I had still to bag, Caudale Moor. For that reason alone it felt like a highlight. And then, there was the golden eagle, one of the only breeding pair in England. This was my last walk from the Far Eastern Fells, volume 2 — the volume that in the end had the most surprises. The miles are long, but the scenery is excellent, and the crowds not as apparent as in some other regions of the District.

In year 4 I only did 42 Wainwrights, but also had an enforced five-month break due to my sabbatical in Australia. This was the year in which I finished the main 214 but also decided, on my return from Down Under, to start on the Outlying Fells as well. By the end of the year I therefore went on to have bagged a total of 224 of the 330 Wainwrights, in 72 walks.

Great Stickle

Great Stickle, from near Hawes cottages

Year 5 highlight: Walk 82 (6th May 2014)

And so on we go. This fifth year of the project has seen me reaffirm something I noted above, in that first year — that in order to stay happy and fit it benefits me to visit the Lake District on a regular basis. As well as continuing with the 116 summits that Wainwright added to the list in his supplementary volume 8, The Outlying Fells, I’ve basically accepted that I’ve also started a second round, of which I’ve only done 8 so far but they’ll keep accumulating as well. I’ll keep posting about them if you want to keep reading.

Why walk 82 as a highlight? No specific reason other than it has definitely been the best of the volume 8 walks so far. The scenery on these fringes of the District is generally nowhere near as dramatic as in the centre, but the Dunnerdale Fells and Stickle Pike are a definite exception, being as rugged as you like, with excellent views as well. A good day out, fine weather, a decent haul of photographs — what more is there to ask?

Butterfly

On the golf course near Broughton Mills

In one way I’m slowing down, I’ve noticed. In the fifth year I have advanced the total only to 262 of the 330, on 84 walks. But though that indicates only 38 summits bagged, to that total should also be added the 8 I have managed in the second round, thus 46 in total.

Anyway, that’s it for this review — hope you like it. Having been frustrated today it looks like the next walk will end up being in early August. Until then…

 

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